Residential school survivor says Canada not ready for reconciliation

Gerry Shingoose attended Muscowequan Residential School, in Saskatchewan, from 1962-1971. She says the experience left her nearly deaf.

Survivor says today's event is about closure

Gerry Shingoose was taken from her parents, by a priest, when she was five to go to a Residential School in Saskatchewan. (Jillian Taylor)

Residential School Survivor Gerry Shingoose wants people to know what residential schooling did to her. That's why she attended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission event at the University of Winnipeg.

"They need to know what happened in there on a daily basis," said Shingoose.

She was five years old when a priest took her from her parents and to the Muscowequan Residential School in Saskatchewan. Shingoose was born in Manitoba, but was living in Hudson Bay, Sask, while her father worked in a bush camp.

"It was a beautiful drive, I never saw the land like that before," said Shingoose with a smile.

She remembers driving down a long road lined with trees on both sides when she arrived at a big building. She walked up a set of stairs and saw the women in black.

"They came and grabbed us," Shingoose said, adding her brother was taken by a man. She and her sister went with the nuns.

"They made us line up on the stairs," remembers Shingoose. "I got to the top, they were undressing us. They put a bowl on my head and cut my hair."

Shingoose said she has no idea what was going on because at that time she only spoke Saulteaux. "I didn't understand English, so I got beaten." 

Physical Abuse cause hearing damage

Shingoose is open with her experience. She testified twice before the TRC: first in Winnipeg in 2010 at the opening ceremony and again in 2013.

"For eight years, I experienced emotional, mental, physical and sexual abuse."

Shingoose says physical abuse was the worst part of her experience. It left her hard of hearing in both ears.

"I was scared, I was in fear," said Shingoose. "Then on the weekend, I was happy. I didn't have to be in his

She says her Grade 3 teacher beat her on both sides of her head on a regular basis.

"I was failed in Grade 3 and had to go through another year of torture, Monday to Friday," she remembered.

When asked what was the hardest part of her experience, she replied: "The hardest part was leaving my mom and dad. They took that from me."

Ready for reconciliation?

Shingoose says today's event is about closure.

"I shared my truth and I know other survivors shared their truth too," she said, adding Justice Murray Sinclair presenting those truths it is an honour to survivors.

"For years we suffered at the hands of nuns and brothers and priests, we need people to know what happened to us. Canada is responsible, they did this to us."

Shingoose doesn't think Canada is ready for reconciliation.

"It is quite evident now, with the federal government not paying attention to our indigenous missing murdered women and girls, and damaging our mother earth, our lands and our waters," she said.

Shingoose believes that reconciliation will come, when Canada starts paying attention to those issues.


Jillian Taylor

CBC Reporter

Jillian Taylor has been with CBC Manitoba since 2012 and has been working as a journalist for nearly 15 years. She was born and raised in Manitoba and is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. In 2014, she was awarded the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's travel bursary, which took her to Australia to work with Indigenous journalists. Find her on Twitter: @JillianLTaylor